SELF-INDICTMENT or an expression of helplessness, the Election Commission of Pakistan has reconfirmed fears about the system by which lawmakers are elected.
In an assessment report — which has taken its time coming — about the May 2013 general election, the ECP has identified some problems that resulted in the polls being perceived as far from ideal.
Much of the blame for the ‘mess’ had already been put on the frequently maligned returning officers drawn from the judiciary. There is, however, a lot more in this self-analysis that shows the rot is much deeper and wider than it appears, and brings the working of the ECP under a dark cloud. It exposes serious flaws in ECP operations, and a remedy should go beyond the oft-made suggestion that the returning officers be put under its control.
Now to the crucial question of whether the ECP’s admission and its mild complaints of having to be unnecessarily dependent on others, including the judiciary, bring the 2013 election into doubt. It is impossible to argue that this self-assessment will not embolden those campaigning against vote rigging in the last polls. They have time and again been asked to back their slogans with evidence, whereas the proof they have cited in support of their allegations has been dismissed as insufficient.
The ECP’s own report about its failings is a boon for the campaigns of both the PTI and PAT. It is an official seal on information about polls irregularities accumulated through various sources. The PTI, which has been fighting various cases within the system to prove its claims about rigging, and PAT, which wants not reform but a change of system outright, would now be justified in saying they have a case that demands not only a probe but prompt action, even if some poll results have to be nullified.
The PML-N government on its part has maintained that the ECP-led system which organised the polls was not its invention. But that does not, or should not, prevent an honest scrutiny of the last polls. It might no more be sufficient to say that these things do happen during elections or that it is in the interest of democracy to ignore May 2013 and wait for the next polls in 2018, which could be conducted under a reformed, reinvigorated ECP. Those who term May 2013 a fraud would be energetically and with some justification be pushing for a mid-term solution.